How to Help a Friend with an Addiction Problem

by Amy Morin

Whether it's drugs, alcohol, gambling or any other addiction, it's heart-wrenching to watch a friend struggle with self-destructive behavior. Although you can't change your friend's behavior, you can influence your friend to make different choices. However, it can be hard to know when or how to offer help. The fear of upsetting your friend or losing the friendship altogether can make confrontation about the addiction difficult. Despite the denial that accompanies addiction, the support of loved ones can often lead to the first step in a long road to recovery.

Provide Support

Educate yourself as much as possible about your friend's addiction. Read articles, talk to others or seek consultation from a professional so you are aware of the impact the addiction is likely to have on your friend. Learn about resources where your friend can get help and be prepared to share these resources with your friend.

Express your concerns to your friend in a gentle, yet loving, way. A direct heart-to-heart conversation can sometimes be effective in getting someone to consider help.

Model appropriate behavior for your friend. For example, if you're concerned about your friend's drinking, don't drink with your friend. Instead, be a positive role model who refrains from addictive behavior.

Establish Healthy Limits

Set clear limits and healthy boundaries. If your friend asks to borrow money or for you to do favors that support the addiction, politely refuse. Explain that you are not willing to participate in your friend's unhealthy behaviors.

Provide consequences for your friend's addiction. If your friend tries to engage in the addiction while you're present, refuse to spend time together and tell your friend that you look forward to spending time together when your friend isn't engaging in the addictive behavior.

Reinforce healthy behavior by rewarding your friend. If your friend is not engaging in the addiction, agree to spend time together and point out how much you enjoy the friendship.

Hold an Intervention

Form an intervention team if other efforts are not successful. A formal intervention should include four to six loved ones who are prepared to gently confront the friend in a loving manner.

Plan ahead about what you will say at the intervention. Each person should be prepared to discuss the consequences that the addiction has had on your friend and on loved ones. Also prepare to discuss treatment options and the consequences that will happen if your friend chooses not to accept help.

Gather the intervention team and invite your friend to join without revealing that it will be an intervention. Take turns sharing your concerns and discuss what changes you hope to see in your friend. Offer treatment options to your friend and present the consequences of not seeking help.

Follow up with your friend whether or not your friend chooses to accept help. Be prepared to follow through with whatever consequences you established if your friend does choose not to make changes. If your friend agrees to treatment, provide support along the way.


  • Seek professional help to assist you with coping with your friend's addiction.


  • Consult with an intervention specialist if your friend has a major mental illnesses or a history of violence or has expressed thoughts of suicide.

About the Author

Amy Morin has been writing about parenting, relationships, health and lifestyle issues since 2009. Her work appears in many print and online publications, including and Global Post. Morin works as a clinical therapist and a college psychology instructor. Morin received her Master of Social Work from the University of New England.

Photo Credits

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